Five years ago, the Peaceful Societies website opened with a range of reference information about 25 human social groups that try to maintain a nonviolent existence. Encyclopedia articles, lists of recommended books, an archive of research articles about some of the societies, and weekly updating news and reviews have been features of the website for this past half-decade.
While generalizations about groups of societies must be made with great care, it is probably safe to say that many of these peaceful groups forswear focusing on individuals. Self-promotion could foster egotistical behavior, which could inspire envy, rivalries, jealousy, and conflict. These could ultimately lead to violence. The Amish are famous for avoiding the taint of self-promotion, but other groups, such as the Ju/’hoansi, also take care to not elevate individuals above the group.
In that spirit, it is only appropriate to commemorate the fifth anniversary of this website, not by singling out its accomplishments, user statistics, or the like, but rather by celebrating the leadership of the Website Patron, Dr. Elise Boulding. Now nearing ninety years old, Dr. Boulding has written many very important books relating to peace studies and has helped form several international peace associations. As the Wikipedia article on Boulding quite correctly states, “She is considered to be one of the most influential peace researchers and activists of the 20th century.”
In 1993, Dr. Dale Hess of Australia, an influential peace scholar in his own right, urged this webmaster to contact Dr. Boulding and apprise her of the existence of the scholarly literature on peaceful societies. Dr. Boulding responded to letters graciously, read recommended works on these interesting groups of people, and incorporated into her own writings their approaches to social life and ways of forming harmonious societies.
This webmaster finally had the pleasure of meeting her in person at a conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, a few days after September 11, 2001. We talked, naturally enough, about peaceful societies and the fact that they demonstrate the very real possibility of forming a more harmonious world. Three years later, Dr. Hess, a reviewer and guiding spirit for the new website, suggested that Dr. Boulding would make an ideal Website Patron. His suggestion was very astute. Dr. Boulding kindly agreed and her son, Russell Boulding, handled the further arrangements and details. The website News and Reviews section announced her acceptance of this role in August 2005. A review of Mary Lee Morrison’s new biography of Boulding accompanied that announcement.
Since New Year’s Eve is a good time for reflecting on the past, it is appropriate to express appreciation for the help and influence that Dr. Hess and Dr. Boulding have had on this website. The other three website reviewers, Dr. Robert Knox Dentan, Dr. Leslie Sponsel, and Dr. Douglas Fry, have also provided a lot of assistance and continue to make helpful suggestions.
But the senior member of the team, our Website Patron, is foremost in our thoughts. A lengthy review of Dr. Boulding’s life and works would be beyond the scope of this news post. For readers who want to go beyond the biography provided on Wikipedia, a personal discussion of her current life is also available on the Web. Dr. Boulding now has Alzheimer’s disease and is living at a nursing home in eastern Massachusetts, where family members and old friends visit and help her celebrate her long life for peace. The website has many beautiful photos of her and family members. It provides inspiring words about her Quaker faith, discussions of some of her contributions to peace, guidelines for visitors who want to see her, and, of course, many warm vignettes of a lady who has exemplified, throughout her life, a firm commitment to her own peaceful life.
This website is honored to have her continuing patronage.